North Carolina continues to rank high among the best states in the nation for business climate and corporate tax rates. The state is also recognized as one of the most competitive for new business. Here in Currituck County, that momentum continues with several key projects in development that will help secure our region’s future success.
A new, $1 billion interstate highway will connect Norfolk and Raleigh and open a high-speed, unobstructed route between the Port of Virginia and North Carolina’s Research Triangle.
The road, to be called Interstate 87, could take as long as two decades to complete. This freeway could open the distribution channels in the mid-Atlantic region like never before. I-87 will link the intellectual and healthcare industries of Raleigh (the fourth-fastest growing city in America according to Forbes) to the deepest port on the eastern seaboard, the Port of Virginia in Norfolk, and every business along the interstate stands to gain as a result.
I-87 will strengthen the ability of Currituck businesses to move goods from roads to sea, and vice versa. This highway connects two key centers of commerce in the southeast, literally paving the way for high speed and high volume transport of goods from our region’s businesses to consumers all over the world.
In March of 2016, consultants presented a feasibility study for a 3,000-acre megasite in Currituck’s border community with Virginia. The initial report identified a strong potential market for a true mixed-use project featuring various housing, commercial, retail, office and industrial uses.
Phase II is underway and under contract, which includes outlines for new zoning areas, roads and utilities. Given the proximity to the vibrant Port of Virginia, a strong rail infrastructure, and access to major interstates, it is no wonder Currituck is considering this potential megasite. Mega-site developments can help turn underused land assets into vibrant economic centers for our region.
The Mid-Currituck Bridge project would create a second crossing of the sound – north of the Wright Memorial Bridge – to help alleviate congestion and improve the flow of evacuation traffic in the event of a hurricane or severe storm.
It would also provide easier access between the Outer Banks and Virginia, as well as other communities in northeastern North Carolina.
The 7-mile toll project includes a two-lane bridge that spans the Currituck Sound and connects the Currituck County mainland to the Outer Banks. It also includes a second two-lane bridge that spans Maple Swamp on the Currituck County mainland, connecting Aydlett to U.S. 158.
The dedication of state transportation funding has begun and the steps toward making the bridge a reality are in motion. As we get closer to the 2019 shovel-ready date and anticipate the first vehicles driving over it in 2025, let’s take a closer look at why this long-awaited project is an exciting development for Currituck County and our region:
A boost in jobs and business
A 2008 report produced by the Center for Competitive Economics at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School predicts the direct impact of the Mid-Currituck Bridge to be:
• 34 businesses at the bridge, including retail stores, restaurants, service businesses and a hotel with estimated total annual sales of $78 million
• The creation of 468 new jobs with $9.6 million in new labor income
• The total production or industry output generated to be $36.2 million
Dramatic improvement to our seasonal economy
The Mid-Currituck Bridge doubles down on our most valuable assets by improving access to our exceptional recreational facilities. Cutting travel time from the mainland to Corolla, mitigating the significant traffic tie-ups, and providing a straight shot to our Outer Banks communities will eliminate much of the apprehension visitors currently have about coming, and spending their vacation dollars, here in Currituck County.
Development opportunities in our beachfront communities are limited due to cost, regulations and available space, whether there is a bridge or not. But the Mid-Currituck Bridge provides development opportunities on the mainland side of the span that are quite significant. As we remove traffic hassles, it is safe to say more people will be drawn to our region for recreational activities and vacations. And when it rains in paradise, the bridge will enable vacationers to pop over to the mainland to find restaurants, shopping and entertainment venues at which to spend their money, rather than leaving the county to do so.
Convenience and safety
The thought of being at work on the mainland, and having your toes in the sand 15 minutes later will be appealing to business owners and their employees. Further, as we know, when the dangerous weather hits the Outer Banks, residents need access to safe, efficient and unclogged evacuation routes — another major advantage the bridge provides.
Currituck County is continuing to invest in capital projects that will expand Currituck County Regional Airport’s (KONX) capabilities to help meet increased aviation demand – and pursue economic development opportunities in the Mid-Atlantic defense and aerospace corridor.
In 2016, the Airport completed work on a $2.3 million Southern Parallel Taxiway project, greatly enhancing the safety and operational efficiency of our visiting corporate, business and leisure aircraft. In 2017-18, Currituck Regional Airport will begin planning and design of an additional $3 million in new ramp improvements, tie-down spaces and for-lease hangar buildings east of Runway 23.
In 1975, the federal government established FTZ 20 in Norfolk, centered by the Port of Virginia. The zone service area includes the Viriginia counties of Accomack (partial), Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Mathews, Northampton, Southampton, Sussex, Surry and York; and includes the cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.
A proposal submitted by the Port Authority in May of 2016 sought to reorganize FTZ 20 and expand it by including eligible areas of the North Carolina counties of Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Gates, Hertford, Pasquotank and Perquimans; and the city of Elizabeth City.
The U.S. Department of Commerce granted approval.